Posts Tagged DIY

Sunken Greenhouse: The Solution To Plant Year Round

Sunken Greenhouse: The Solution To Plant Year Round

sunken greenhouse


Imagine being able to house your crops in a sunken greenhouse that self insulates and not having to worry about harsh winters or dry summers ruining your garden. Sunken greenhouses are one of the most ideal structures for farmers and gardeners dealing with fluctuating climates.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Over the last few years, I have gotten super into vegetable gardening on my homestead, but I hate it when undesirable weather patterns harm my crops. When I heard about the magic of the year round Wallapini, I knew I had to check it out!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is A Wallapini Sunken Greenhouse?

What Is A Wallapini Sunken Greenhouse

The Wallapini sunken greenhouse is one of the earliest known sheltered greenhouses in the world. They are used all across the globe by farmers and gardeners who hope to harness the sun’s thermal energy and extend their traditional growing season.

sunken greenhouse for plantsThe unique design of these structures is what sets them apart from traditional greenhouses. Similar to Mike Oehler’s original underground house design, the “sunken” aspect of the sunken greenhouse design means that the greenhouse quite literally sinks down into the earth and uses the earth’s mass to benefit the crops in the greenhouse.

Wallapini greenhouses are intentionally designed to retain both heat and cold air. They bring light and heat into the greenhouse and convert it into energy. This self-sustaining process leads to a greenhouse that can regulate its own temperature levels.

History Of The Underground Greenhouse

History Of The Underground Greenhouse

The Wallapini greenhouse was officially given its name in 2002 when a group of student volunteers from the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute went to La Paz, Bolivia, to help local farmers in the area. They departed with the goal of building low-cost pit greenhouses for local farmers to use year-round, and did not fall short of their goal as they created the Wallapini.

underground greenhouse structureThe students were able to design and build a greenhouse structure that helped farmers in La Paz keep their crops warm in the wintertime. They gave their pit greenhouse the name “Wallapini,” as it means “place of warmth” in the indigenous tongue of the people from La Paz.

However, the Wallapini was not the first time that a sheltered greenhouse was used to keep crops warm in all circumstances. One of the earliest recorded examples of an underground greenhouse was built in 1798 at the famous Lyman Estate. The Lyman Estate Greenhouses are some of the oldest surviving sunken greenhouses in the United States.

The design idea caught on all across Massachusetts in the 1800s to protect rare grape and fruit tree varieties from the harsh cold farmers were facing. The first sunken greenhouses were heated with wooden stoves, but many new heating methods have become popularized since then.

Today, many farmers and gardeners choose to embed pit greenhouses into their land to take back control of their growing season and keep the temperature of their crops regulated. There are many different design variations of sun pit greenhouses. However, all sunken greenhouses are designed to regulate temperature in a similar way.

How Does A Wallapini Greenhouse Work?

How Does A Wallapini Greenhouse Work

A traditional greenhouse is built with four glass walls and a glass roof. This basic design may allow a traditional greenhouse to warm up quickly, but it does not give the structure the ability to trap temperature for long periods of time.

On the other hand, pit greenhouses are intentionally designed with one open wall to take in sunlight and one earth bermed wall to insulate thermal energy. Berm greenhouses are ideal for farmers and gardeners who want to strategically extend their growing season longer than their climate at home might allow.

So, how do sunken greenhouses work their magic? The intricate design of the Wallapini greenhouse uses a wide, angled roof to take in sunlight and convert it into solar energy.

wallapini sunken greenhouse design

Additionally, its sides are bermed into the earth so that they trap and insulate the thermal heat under the ground. This allows farmers and gardeners to keep crops warm underground even while the above ground climate is bitter and cold.

Not only does the Wallapini keep crops warm in cold weather, but it is also designed to keep plants cool in the dry heat of the summer. The cold sink is dug into the south side of the sunken greenhouse and allows the structure to keep crops cool and moist.

We know that cold air sinks and heat rises. The Wallapini is designed with a deep welled cold sink to trap the cool air that runs through the front wall of the pit greenhouse in the wintertime and become trapped by the layers of soil at the bottom of the cold sink.

The main interior of the sunken greenhouse is layered with a thin line of gravel that is covered by a growing bed made of topsoil. Each of the crops and plants are either placed in the soil, set on top of raised growing beds, or housed in individual pots.

Wallapini sunken greenhouse design
interior of the sunken greenhouse

Sunken Greenhouse Benefits

Sunken Greenhouse Benefits

There are many reasons why building an underground greenhouse rather than a traditional greenhouse can work wonders for your crops and your garden. The Wallapini greenhouse includes several strategic elements that can aid you in getting the absolute most out of every planting season and maintain the best soil health for your vegetable garden.

how to prepare garden soil

You Can Use A Wallapini Greenhouse Year Round

You Can Use A Wallapini Greenhouse Year Round

The biggest plus that comes from building a sunken greenhouse is that the design keeps the temperature of your crops regulated year-round. With pit greenhouses, you don’t have to worry as much about changes in weather having a negative impact on your crops.

As the Wallapini stores both hot and cold air, it self regulates the temperature of its interior and keeps your crops healthy despite the climate changings outside. This also makes it easier for gardeners to plants crops that may not necessarily be ideal for the climate they live in.

Pit Style Greenhouses Can Be Built Into A Hillside

Pit Style Greenhouses Can Be Built Into A Hillside

When it comes to farming, you typically want to make sure your land is totally flat to best serve your crops. It can be much more difficult to grow plants when you live on a hillside or at a higher altitude. However, sunken greenhouses can be built into a hillside with no issues.

A sunken greenhouse is the perfect solution to farming and planting on a hillside because you can design the Wallapini to work with the curve of the hill. Due to the fact that pit greenhouses are embedded into the earth, you can still lay crops flat underneath the ground, even if the structure is built into a hill or elevated piece of land.

An Underground Greenhouse Means Less Weather Damage

An Underground Greenhouse Means Less Weather Damage

Leaving your crops subject to the elements can lead to devastating results. I’ve been into growing my own vegetables for a while, and there have been too many times when a huge storm would blow through Charlotte and I would have to start over with my crops.

Since the Wallapini is underground, plants are much less likely to suffer from weather damage. They are protected by the earth bermed sides of the sunken greenhouse.

gardening for beginners

A Sunken Greenhouse Is Protected From Critters And Pests

A Sunken Greenhouse Is Protected From Critters And Pests

In a similar vein, keeping your crops underground keeps your precious vegetables more protected from hungry nighttime critters and grazers. As an avid gardener, I’ve spent way too much time using wire fencing and fancy repellants to keep animals out of my stash.

With a sunken greenhouse, your vegetable garden is protected from extra hungry visitors. The bermed walls and the roof over the ground keeps your garden out of the way of creatures roaming around day and night.

The Insulation Of A Wallapini Increases Moisture

The Insulation Of A Wallapini Increases Moisture

Underground greenhouses are designed to harbor an especially moist, humid environment to aid the growth of your crops. When planting above ground, crops can easily become dried out by the sun’s heat.

When crops are regulated underneath the ground, your plants are isolated from the elements, so it’s easier to keep moisture from evaporating back into the atmosphere. This is especially conducive to aquaculture plants that thrive in moist conditions.

What To Plant In An All Year Round Greenhouse

What To Plant In An All Year Round Greenhouse

The key to making the most of a sun pit greenhouse is to know what to plant and when to plant it. You want your plants to be able to thrive!

Mastering the Wallapini greenhouse means understanding the eb and flow of the weather where you live and how to rotate your crop cycle to achieve the most gardening success. It also means looking to gardening and homesteading books, experts, and other resources to help you understand how to manage your pit greenhouse during all months of the year.

fall gardening

Using A Pit Greenhouse In The Summer

Using A Pit Greenhouse In The Summer

When growing vegetables in the summer, you should keep your greenhouse temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit to grow all of your warm-season crops. To have optimal planting success, you’ll want to make sure to check in on all of the systems in your greenhouse that keep it cool.

Check your waterproofing, draining, and ventilation systems in your sunken greenhouse. Proper ventilation, cooling, and air flow is extremely vital to keep your summer crops alive in your Wallapini.

It’s also super easy to over water, under water, or forget to drain your summer crops properly, which could quickly lead to an unsuccessful harvest. Make sure to check in on all of your watering systems during the dry summer months.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that your greenhouse is effectively taking in solar energy and converting it into heat. It’s vital that this process occurs during the summer months so that you are prepared for frigid winters when they come.

Best Summer Crops To Plant In A Wallapini

  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Muskmelon Cantaloupes
grow tomatoes in a sunken greenhouse

How To Use A Wallapini In The Fall

How To Use A Wallapini In The Fall

In the autumn months, pay extra attention to the position of your plants on the topsoil grow bed of your sunken greenhouse. Use the waning fall sunlight to your advantage as a gardener by positioning your plants in spots where they receive optimum sunlight.

Another great trick for tackling autumn months is to use deeper containers for fall crops. Deeper containers can provide more water and nutrients to your autumn crops and will give you more gardening success.

Best Fall Crops To Plant In A Sunken Greenhouse

  • Baby Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Turnips
growing beets in a sunken greenhouse

Using A Sunken Greenhouse In The Winter

Using A Sunken Greenhouse In The Winter

For gardeners and farmers, the wintertime is one of the most challenging seasons to navigate. Thankfully, it is the season that best allows a sunken greenhouse to do what it does best.

In the winter months, you’ll want to make sure that you are using the heat stored in the bermed walls of the Wallapini as well as letting cool air sink down into the cold sink to prepare for the return of hot, summer months.

If you happen to be in a climate that is especially cold, you can actually design your sunken greenhouse to work even more effectively in cold climates. Give the interior of your Wallapini an extra layer of stone, earthbags of lava rocks, or any dense material that is able to store heat more effectively than topsoil alone.

Materials like concrete, brick, and tiles require a much higher amount of heat energy to alter their density. Due to their high thermal mass, using these materials in your pit greenhouse walls can act as a thermal battery that keeps crops warm on days with no sun.

Best Winter Crops To Plant In A Wallapini

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Garlic

How To Use A Wallapini In The Spring

How To Use A Wallapini In The Spring

Similar to the fall, you’re going to want to take advantage of the way the sunlight falls during springtime by positioning your plants to face the light. This will help your spring crop take in enough light to grow successfully.

Springtime is also the perfect time to get everything in order for a new season of planting. Take time in the early spring to set up new planters and garden beds, clear out weeds, mulch, and debris, and begin pruning your plants.

Best Spring Crops To Plant In A Sunken Greenhouse

  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Corn
grow onions in a sunken greenhouse

How To Build A Sunken Greenhouse In 10 Steps

How To Build A Sunken Greenhouse

When you’re ready to build your own sunken greenhouse, there are several design elements and aspects of the building process to take into account. You want to design and build a sunken greenhouse that works best for your specific type of land, climate, and planting goals.

build or buy a tiny houseAs a guy who built his own tiny house from scratch, I know that building anything is a huge undertaking. It can be easy to get ahead of yourself with a project like this and end up biting off a lot more than you can chew, leaving you with a half-finished greenhouse and a lot less money than you started with.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try if you feel ready, or that you need a certain level of experience to build something like this. When I started building my tiny house, I had never built anything before in my life! I’m a firm believer that anyone with the time, funds, and dedication is ready to become a DIYer.

All I’m saying is, from someone who knows the money, time, and effort that building things yourself takes, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before diving head first into a huge project like this.

Pit Greenhouse Materials List

Pit Greenhouse Materials List

This tools and materials list is meant for sunken greenhouse with dimensions of 20’x74’. If you’re building a larger or smaller greenhouse, you’ll need to alter the sizes on this materials list to fit your desired pit greenhouse size.

Sunken Greenhouse Building Materials

  • (20) 4” x 16’ poles or PVC pipes to span the roof
  • (3) 3’ x 6’ hinged doors (one is for the 3’ x 5’ vent cover)
  • (3) 3’ x 5’ door frames (two if rear wall vent is not used)
  • (2) 3’ x 6’ door lintels
  • 1700 sq. ft. of 200 micron agrofilm (poly UV plastic)
  • 640 ft. of 1” wood stripping to secure sheeting to poles
  • 30 cubic yds. of gravel for the floor drainage system
  • 100 ft. of drain pipe
  • 1 cubic yd. of gravel or stone to fill the 2 drain sumps
  • 233 cubic yds. of soil will come from the excavation
  • 22 cubic yds. of top soil for planting (8” x 66’ x 12’)
  • 94 cubic yds. for the rammed earth walls
  • 2700 sq. ft. of plastic sheeting to bury for drainage
  • 74 ft. of drain gutter for the lower end of roof
  • Galvanized Nails or weatherproof deck screws
  • 8” x 4” x 12” adobe bricks

Sunken Greenhouse Building Tools

  • Hammer
  • Shovel
  • Picks
  • Saw
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Crowbar
  • Measuring Tape
  • Level
  • Clear Hose
  • Cutting Knife
  • Hose
  • Nozzle
  • Hand Compactor
  • Adobe Form
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits
  • Grade Stakes
  • Nylon String
  • Plow
  • Tractor

tiny house tools

1Evaluate The Land For Sunken Greenhouse

Before building anything for your Wallapini greenhouse, you’re going to want to evaluate the land that you are building it on. Doing this isn’t as much about making sure your land works for your Wallapini, it’s more about learning how to build your Wallapini to work for your land.

evaluate land for a sunken greenhouseThere are several things to consider and check for when it comes to evaluating your sunken greenhouse land. You’ll want to examine the slope of your land, the type of soil that makes up your land, and the climate you live in.

If you are trying to embed your sunken greenhouse into a hill, you’ll want to ensure that the soil in the hill is stable and isn’t under downward pressure. Since the sunken greenhouse is built directly into the earth as opposed to on top of a foundation or solid footing, a wall built in unstable soil or soil under pressure will inevitably collapse.

The last thing you want is to put in all this work building a beautiful greenhouse just for the finished product to fall apart and destroy your land in the process. Check the pressure of your soil beforehand. If the soil is being pressed downward towards the earth, find a different spot to build.

Another thing to check for is the type of soil that you have in your land. If the bottom layer of your soil is made of a wet clay as opposed to dry dirt or sand, your soil is not going to drain water as well.

type of soil for a sunken greenhouseThe ability to drain water when building a Wallapini is so crucial to the longevity of your sunken greenhouse. If water continues to seep into the walls and floors of your Wallapini without being fully drained, your whole greenhouse will fall apart.

If your soil beds are made of clay, don’t fret! It’s an easy fix. It will be in your best interest to add drains around the perimeter of your greenhouse to allow water to escape from your Wallapini.

I would recommend building French drains to get the best results. French drains are trenches with perforated pipes that are wrapped in landscaping fabric and work wonders to drain water from the interior of an underground greenhouse.

Another extremely vital thing to consider is anything on your land that could get in the way of your greenhouse roof getting sunlight. Make sure that the Wallapini is located so that the sunlight is not being blocked by trees, other buildings, or any other structure. Be sure to observe the sun throughout a full year to understand how the light falls during different seasons.

2Mark The Outline Of Your Underground Greenhouse

Once you’ve evaluated your soil type and taken necessary precautions to protect your Wallapini, go ahead and mark off the land area you plan to use. Measure out a 12.5’ by 66’ growing area, marking it with four corner stakes and your nylon string.

Next, “square off” the area with measuring tape or pre marked rope so you can clearly see the outline of your sunken greenhouse exterior. The string line serves as your visual for the area that will need to be dug out.

3Choose Your Sunken Greenhouse Design

Everything you do from here on out is really going to depend on the type of underground greenhouse you choose to build. The Benson Institute’s traditional Wallapini is built entirely into the earth, with the interior sinking deeply into the subsoil and an angled roof built at ground level.

sunken greenhouse layout
pit style greenhouse
sunken earth greenhouse
earth sheltered greenhouse

However, you can also choose to build an earth sheltered greenhouse, which originates from Mike Oehler’s book, The Earth Sheltered Greenhouse. An earth sheltered greenhouse has one entirely earth bermed wall with its remaining walls supported by wooden beams that extend aboveground.

earth sheltered wallapini greenhouse
sunken berm greenhouse

Whether you build your sunken greenhouse entirely underground or berm one side while raising the rest of the structure, the most important element to consider is if your roof is built where the sun’s rays will hit at a 90-degree angle. I’ll explain more on this in the coming steps.

4Excavate The Hole For Your Underground Greenhouse

Now it’s time to start digging out the interior of your Wallapini. Obviously, the depth of your dig is going to depend on your design type.

If you’re building a traditional Wallapini, the main hole of your sunken greenhouse should be dug one to two feet deeper than your growing surface. This is super important because it allows room for rocks and gravel to fill in underneath the topsoil.

mini backhoe for digging sunken greenhouseIf you are excavating your Wallapini by hand or by shovel, a major tip is to wet your dirt beforehand. This will make your dig easier because the water will make your dirt much more malleable as you dig.

The excavation will go much faster with a tractor or backhoe. However, those tools can be expensive if you don’t own them already, so the method you choose is up to you. If you’re friends with any local farmers, now’s the time to lean on them!

As you dig up endless layers of soil, go ahead and pile that soil onto the side of the hole that you plan to berm into the earth. This will make it way easier on you in the long run because you won’t have to lug huge piles of soil around.

5Create Your Sunken Greenhouse Walls

Again, this comes down to your choice of design. If you’re building a traditional Wallapini, make sure that all four vertical walls of the dig are sloped from the bottom of the hole to the outside at the top.

digging channels for earthen greenhouseA minimum of a 6” slope from bottom to top is what experts suggest for a 6’ high wall. Doing this is going to reduce soil caving in or crumbling off from the walls over time.

Make sure not forget to dig out two channels needed for the door entrances at opposite ends of your Wallapini. If you forget to dig out door holes in your walls, you’ll create a totally insulated greenhouse that you won’t ever be able to enter!

You’ll also need to dig holes for your wall posts. Make the holes for your wall posts about three feet deep. If your holes start to fill with water, add PVC socks to the 6” x 6” pine posts to prevent your wood from taking in moisture and rotting from the inside out.

Use your clear hose to make sure each grade stake is set at the same level. If one or more walls are going to be rammed as the soil is removed, also lay out and mark those spots. After setting the posts, fill in the areas around the holes with cement.

After adding beams to your earth sheltered greenhouse, you’ll build out three wooden walls to surround the sides of the greenhouse that aren’t bermed into the ground. My friends who have built their own underground greenhouses suggest rough red and white oak boards for your exterior walls. Pine or hemlock wood can also work really well for a sunken greenhouse.

6Add A Roof To Your Underground Greenhouse

The roof is arguably the most important elements of a successful underground greenhouse. The positioning of your roof is so vital in ensuring that your plants stay happy and healthy.

Make sure that the angle of the roof is approximately 39º to 40º so it will be perpendicular to the sun’s rays on the winter solstice. The slope and the longer side of your roof should face toward the winter sun to gain the best light exposure underground. This means you should angle your roof southward if you’re in the northern hemisphere and northward if you’re in the southern hemisphere.

sunken greenhouse roof angle

When actually building your rooftop, it is important to use material that will effectively trap light and effectively store it within the Wallapini. There are lots of different material types you can use to give your sunken greenhouse optimal sun exposure from the roof.

Sunken Greenhouse Roofing Options

  • Polycarbonate Panels
  • Traditional Glass
  • Double-Layered Acrylic
  • Suntuf Panels
  • Fiberglass Panels
  • Plastic Sheeting
Sunken Greenhouse Roofing Options

7Dig Out Your Cold Sink

Digging a cold sink is an integral part of making your sunken greenhouse a success. Because the greenhouse is built under the ground, the cold air will naturally collect at the very bottom of your structure. As the cold air migrates down your Wallapini, it will create an unwanted frost pocket around your vegetables.

This is where your cold sink comes in handy. Raise your garden beds up and dig below the pathways to create a long tube for your cold sink. Wherever your pathways are, dig them deeper and then build a board walk over them.

Doing this will allow the cold air to sink to the lowest point of your structure instead of layering frost on your crop. It will also help you store cold air to assist your crops in the summer heat.

8Add Doors And Floors To Your Sunken Greenhouse

When installing your doors in a traditional Wallapini greenhouse design, build out the door frame to be about 2” of thick board stock with holes drilled at the top, middle and bottom of each side.

Then, drive wooden stakes, dowels, or rebar through these six holes into the bermed wall to make sure the doors are level. Make sure that your doors fit as airtight as possible. Fill in any air cracks found around the door frames with adobe mud, clay, sand, or straw.

When it comes to flooring, there are lots of different options you can choose to use to lay underneath your topsoil and trap heat.

Materials To Use For A Sunken Greenhouse Floor

  • Gravel
  • Sandstone
  • Lava Rocks
  • Limestone
  • Fieldstone
  • Sand
gravel floor for sunken greenhouse

9Make Sure You Have Proper Ventilation In Your Wallapini

Proper ventilation in a sunken greenhouse is a beast of its own. Since the majority of your structure lives underground, you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure that you are achieving the best air flow possible to keep your veggies alive and thriving.

Best Ventilation Options For An Underground Greenhouse

  • Add open doors on the east and west sides
  • Install a vent in the top back wall
  • Build a hatch door in the upper north corner
  • Add a chimney above the apex of the roof
venting a sunken greenhouse

Each option has pros and cons when it comes to the amount of work it takes to build, the cost of materials, and optimal airflow. Achieving the best ventilation in your sunken greenhouse will likely come down to knowing your needs and understanding the best option for your design and land setup.

10Seal Off Holes And Start Planting!

Once the main structure of your greenhouse is finished, you’ll want to reevaluate for any air leaks and seal up spaces with holes and gaps. It will be easy to tell which areas of your greenhouse need patching because you should see steam escaping from the outer holes of your Wallapini.

A great way to seal up walls and trusses is by using tung oil or natural citrus solvent. Neither of these products fume harmful chemicals as your greenhouse begins to heat up.

You can also wrap basic pond liner around the entire greenhouse structure for an extra layer of sealant. If you do this, cover your pond liner with plywood to keep from ripping any holes in the rubber. Once all your holes are sealed up, it’s time to start planting crops in your beautiful sunken greenhouse!

finished greenhouse structure
sunken greenhouse design

Buy A Sunken Greenhouse Kit

Buy A Sunken Greenhouse Kit

If those 10 steps seemed like an ungodly amount of labor that you aren’t up to, don’t worry! One of the easiest ways to be a proud owner of a sunken greenhouse without having to put in so much work is to invest in a sunken greenhouse kit.

Sunken Greenhouse Kits To Buy:

How Much Does A Sunken Greenhouse Cost To Build?

How Much Does A Sunken Greenhouse Cost To Build

The overall cost of your sunken greenhouse will depend heavily on the design you choose, the materials you use, and whether or not you choose to hire out for labor costs.

For example, if you only use unlined, inclined, interior earthen walls, your overall cost is going to be much cheaper than if you purchase wooden walls to line your greenhouse. According to experts, the cheapest roofing material for a Wallapini is eucalyptus poles. If you want to use polycarbonate panels, on the other hand, that’s going to raise your price.

As a general estimate, you could probably build an extremely basic, entirely dirt rimmed Wallapini for as low as $200 or $300. On the expensive side, you could create a wood lined, fully glazed, sturdy earth sheltered greenhouse with a polycarbonate roof for around $15,000 or $20,000 dollars.

Additional Resources For An Earth Sheltered Greenhouse

Additional Resources For An Earth Sheltered Greenhouse

I may know a fair amount about building and gardening, but I’ve yet to build a sunken greenhouse on my own. I thought I’d include some additional resources from experts who have built and managed their own Wallapini greenhouses.

Your Turn!

  • How would building a sunken greenhouse benefit your garden?
  • How will you choose to design and lay out your Wallapini?

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home: Cost And Considerations

Buy or Build A Tiny Home


Making the decision to live in a tiny house is only the beginning of your journey! Once you decide to adopt the tiny life, you’ll need to figure out whether you want to build or buy your tiny home.

There is a lot to consider when making the decision to buy or build, but there are really only a few basic things worth considering most heavily.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I made the decision to build my own tiny house 10 years ago, I had to learn as I went. Since then, I’ve helped over 3,000 people build tiny homes of their own; here is what I’ve learned when it comes to making this critical decision.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House?

Should I Build Or Buy My Tiny House

There are many important questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to build or buy a tiny house. At the end of the day, whichever way you go, you’re going to be investing time, money, and resources into the project. You want to make a decision that will help the outcome be worth your while.

is it better to build or buy a tiny homeWhen I started looking into living tiny, things were totally different than they are today. The tiny house community was a small movement still finding its way. There were fewer tiny home owners and online resources, and there weren’t even any builders until much later in the game.

Keep in mind that I was working for corporate America in the middle of the recession, I had never built anything myself before in my life, and money was tight! For me, the decision was simple, and cost was the major driver.

I was 23, drowning in student loans, and I had always been attracted to the idea of building my own home and learning skills I could use down the line. I knew building my tiny home was the way to go.

Today, the tiny house community has grown so much. There are builders in every state who offer prefabricated, turn-key tiny home models shipped straight to your town. You can also partner with building companies to create custom designs. The opportunities out there are abundant.

how to buy a tiny house

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House?

How Much Can You Afford To Spend On Your Tiny House

The amount of money you have to invest in your tiny house is the most important thing to consider. Money is pretty black and white with things like this; you either have $10,000 or $50,000 to spend on the project, or whatever amount you have. It kind of makes the decision for you.

tiny house kitchenIt’s always going to be more expensive to buy a house through a builder because you’re paying for materials, labor, and their overhead, whereas if you build the home yourself, you’re handling those hoops on your own.

Whether you choose to buy or build, don’t let the size or idea of a tiny house trick you into believing it’s not a huge financial investment. The average tiny home costs about $27,000. However, the price of tiny homes has a huge range because of how many elements are considered.

It really comes down to how much you’re able to spend. Be honest about where you’re at financially and act according to the numbers, not according to your desires.

how much does a tiny house cost

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House?

Can You Put In The Time And Effort Required To Build A Tiny House

If you choose to build your home yourself, you’re looking at a year of time dedicated to the project at the very minimum. When I say a year, I don’t mean like when you commit to a book club for a year and have a couple meetings a month. I’m talking dedicating the bulk of your weekends and weekday leisure time to your tiny home.

getting a grip on a busy scheduleWhen I was building my tiny house, I was going to work during the day, and when I wasn’t working, I was either planning, buying materials, researching, building, or sleeping. There wasn’t much time to do anything else.

I’ve had friends who think they want to build their own tiny home, but when I tell them how much time and effort it actually takes, they realize they can’t afford a commitment like that at this time in your life.

I’m not saying this to discourage the building option. Like I said before, I built my own tiny home and would definitely choose that route again! However, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of what goes into building a tiny home so you can decide if you’re able to actually do it. The worst feeling is getting halfway through a project you’ve invested so much time and money in only to have to abandon it halfway through.

Maybe you’re raising four kids right now, you have a really demanding full-time job, or you just don’t feel like you’re in the place to invest all your time and energy into this. However, just because you don’t feel like you can go all in right now, doesn’t mean the dream of building your own tiny house cannot become a reality down the road.

Do You Have Building Experience?

Do You Have Building Experience

If you want to go the building route, having previous building experience is a big advantage. But it’s not an absolute necessity.
I went from being a corporate businessman to a skilled builder through the process of building my tiny home. The whole experience was a huge learning process for me and gave me confidence and lifelong skills I still use today. Trust me — if I can do it, anyone can.

Just because everyone can learn, though, doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to. It’s not easy, and it takes hard work, being a corporate desk worker meant I wasn’t used to long days of heavy physical work. If you aren’t feeling ready to do it all on your own, consider asking friends, family, or neighbors who have the skills to come over and grab a hammer.

Even if you have lots of people to help, realize that you’re going to still be doing a ton of work and, sometimes, having people help you can actually slow you down.

One of my last and most important pieces of advice: make sure you have health insurance if you’re building your own tiny home.

Not only can building be challenging, but just like with any construction project, you can get hurt. I’ve had two friends put a nail through their hand with a nail gun and one friend fall off a ladder and break her back. Of course, injuries won’t happen to everyone, but you want to stay safe above all else.

tiny house design and build collection

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design?

How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Design

Another thing to consider when deciding to buy or build is how personal you want your home to be. There are so many options out there when it comes to partnering with a builder and creating a custom design, but it’s still someone else’s work at the end of the day.
Even with the closest builder-to-buyer relationship, there may still be elements of your home that don’t turn out exactly the way you had wanted. If you’re building the house yourself, you’ll have full control over every decision and detail!

how to design a tiny house

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House?

How Quickly Do You Want To Start Living In Your Tiny House

Time is another important factor to keep in mind. Like I mentioned before, if you’re building your own tiny house, it will likely take you a year at the very least. Probably closer to two years, realistically.

With a building company, a custom design will take some time, but not as much time as building your own home. The fastest option is to buy a prefabricated model and get it shipped to you. The route you choose will depend on how quickly you want to unlock your door and say, “home sweet home.”

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home: Cost Comparison

Buying Verses Building A Tiny Home Cost Comparison

Cost is ultimately the biggest consideration when deciding to buy or build your tiny house. Whatever way you cut it, building yourself is the cheapest option. However, there are many specifics ways you can buy verses build, and they’re all going to vary in price.

The Cost To Build A Tiny House

When it comes to building, the price is going to vary depending on several factors. A tiny house is not one lump sum, but is instead made up of many individual parts that add up to the total cost.

The Cost To Buy A Tiny House

The cost of buying a tiny house is much more cut-and-dry. Since the tiny house has already been built, you’re paying for materials and labor that are no longer malleable. The price for a tiny house you buy is what it is. For some people, that makes the entire process easier. Others would rather have more of a say over each detail of their home.

What Are You Paying For In A Tiny House?

What Are You Paying For When You Buy Or Build A Tiny House

There are lots of things to consider that affects where those dollars go, whether you buy or build. Either way, you’re investing in materials, labor, and other elements of the home. I want to spell those things that cost you in order to help you make the most informed decision possible.

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

The Bulk Of Your Cost Is Materials

Whether you buy or build your tiny house, a large portion of the cost will be materials. This includes buying the actual lumber, screws, wiring, plumbing, doors, windows — anything that goes into a home.

You’re paying for these materials whether you assemble the house yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. This means that you want to invest in high-quality materials where it makes the most sense, while cutting costs where you can to mitigate the price.

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tiny house tools
tiny house electrical

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

Paying For Labor Can Add Up Quickly

The next thing to consider when breaking down the cost of a tiny house is the price you pay for labor. This is the differentiating factor when we’re talking buying or building.

A general rule of thumb is that labor is usually proportional to the material costs. Take the cost of the house you want to build, and if you’re going to have someone build it for you, double the price.

While it is ultimately more expensive to hire a builder and invest in the labor, you know it will be done right (hopefully). If you build the home yourself, you don’t have to pay for labor, but you run the risk of making mistakes that could end up being costly down the line.

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Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Ways To Save Money On Your Tiny Home

Whether or not you decide to buy or build, there are ways to specifically mitigate cost. However, there are also some elements where going cheaper may reduce the quality of your home. Staying informed on where to cut corners and where not to is key, whether you’re buying or building.

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

Money-Saving Measures In Your Tiny House

There are several areas where you can save money without reducing the quality of your home. This isn’t the case with every element, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know what works.

Things To Spend Less On: Floors, Cabinets and Fixtures

tiny house floors


The nice thing about flooring is that, square footage wise, tiny houses are small. It doesn’t actually take a lot of flooring to cover your home. If you’re looking for a place to cut costs in your budget, flooring is the first place I’d start. The best thing about saving on flooring is if you decide down the line that you want to make a change, it’s not set in stone.

tiny house cabinets


Cabinets are another feature you can spend a ton of money on unnecessarily. I would suggest going with Ikea cabinets or a pre-built, project cabinet kit from Lowes or Home Depot. You can stain them or paint them yourself, and they have tons of styles and sizes. This is the most affordable option.

tiny house fixtures


You can also save big on fixtures. With lighting fixtures, you can find some good deals or go secondhand. With plumbing fixtures, I’d stick to standard, off-the-shelf models.

Overall, whether you choose to buy or build your tiny house, you can make decisions that cut costs without sacrificing quality. At the end of the day, both options have pros and cons, but it really comes down to what works for you, your partner, or your family.

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

Tiny House Elements You Should Not Cut Corners On

The last thing you want to do is spend less money on things you should really be investing in, compromising the quality of your home. There are some elements of your tiny home, whether buying or building, that it’s worth spending more on the front end to save yourself from spending a lot on repairs down the road.

Things To Spend More On: Trailer, Roof, Windows & Doors

tiny house trailers


My recommendation has always been to buy a brand-new trailer from a reputable source. That’s your foundation, and you don’t want to cheap out on your foundation because your whole house is built on it.

I’ve seen people try to buy used trailers or build their own, and it’s just not the way to go. Every single person I’ve talked to who has pursued a used trailer has regretted it. Unless you’re a metal fabricator, don’t even go down that road.

tiny house roofing materials


Second, invest in your roof. Your roof protects everything, because everything in your home sits below it. Your overhead protection is not worth skimping out on. I personally like standing C metal roofs because they are wind resistant and hold up for a long time. It’s much easier for shingles to fly off when driving down the road, so I’d avoid that route.

tiny house windows and doors

Windows and Doors

When it comes to windows and doors, go with stock sizes. Custom designs can triple or quadruple your cost, and there’s no need to go this route when you can get stock sizes for the same quality.

Just be sure to invest in quality products. These are the parts of your home that lead to the outside world, so refraining from cutting corners here will keep your house protected from things like bugs or the elements.

Your Turn!

  • Are you planning to build or buy your tiny home and why?
  • How will you strategically save money when you buy or build?

Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

homesteading book review

The practice of homesteading can find its way into one’s life in many different ways. For some, being a homesteader looks like producing your own food, making your own clothes, managing a small hobby farm, or generating your own power. For others, the journey towards self-sufficiency might be as simple as adding a vertical garden of climbing peas to your apartment balcony.

I started out by adding chickens next to my small raised bed, then integrated other versions of homesteading into my life gradually. The process was a slow one, but that made it fun and manageable.

Start small. Take baby steps to start your homestead. Pick a skill you’re wanting to learn and engage with a book from that list, then see what happens. Happy reading!

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Homesteading can be life changing if you give it the chance, but, like anything, the first step is to learn. I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are the most helpful books for those looking to get into homesteading, and sorted them by category.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading entails many different areas of work and varieties of DIYing, which can all seem a little overwhelming to a beginner. This booklist includes guides that are broken down simply, ideal for someone who wants to start a self-sufficient life but is looking for some guidance on how to get started.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

by Carla Emery

If I had a friend who was getting into homesteading and asked for my advice, this is likely the first read I’d recommend. Carla’s encyclopedia includes detailed instructions for a plethora of important homesteader skillsets, including canning and preserving food, gardening, growing your own food, beekeeping, cooking on a wood stove, raising livestock, milling flour, tapping maple trees, and much more.

New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

by John Seymour

With the newest version published in 2019, John’s Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency is full of comprehensive information about life as a homesteader. The guide also includes detailed instructions for various elements of the lifestyle, like how to create an urban organic garden or how to harness natural energy.

The Homesteading Handbook

The Homesteading Handbook

by Abigail Gehring

I know firsthand that life can quickly become noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming. This read delves deeper than the mere process of minimization — it’s about what that process can do for you.

Dana elaborates on the reasons why decluttering can often feel difficult. She writes about the ways our emotions get in the way of creating a clutter-free life for ourselves, and ways to combat these mental roadblocks.

Mini Farming On Quarter An Acre

Mini Farming On ¼ An Acre

by Brett Markham

If the self-sufficient lifestyle of homesteading is appealing to you, but you don’t have a ton of land to work off of, this book is for you. Brett walks you through ways that having less land doesn’t have to limit you when it comes to homesteading.

Even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers what’s essential for beginners to know, like buying and saving seeds, crop rotation, farm planning, seasonal gardening, crop rotation, and many other basic farming need to knows.

The Backyard Homestead

The Backyard Homestead

by Carleen Madigan

With several different editions including an all-inclusive guide to raising livestock, growing your own food, kitchen know-how, building projects, and a seasonal planner, Carleen’s The Backyard Homestead series is one of the best guides for beginner homesteaders. Each guide includes step-by-step instructions for the topic it covers, along with pictures and diagrams for you to follow.

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Owning, managing, tending to, and working off of your land is the first step to becoming a successful homesteader. Without your own land, it’s hard to maintain a self-sufficient life. These homesteading books will help you locate quality farmland and gain tips for keeping it up on your own.

Finding Good Farmland

Finding Good Farmland

Larkin Hansen

Finding Good Farmland covers every aspect you should consider before buying your own farmland, including government regulations, residential concerns from the surrounding area where you’re searching, soil conditions, and ways to budget. This read is a great self-checker if you’re looking for quality farmland and want to ensure you’ve thought through the basics and the details.

Five Acres and Independence

Five Acres and Independence

by Maurice Grenville Kains

Maurice provides an easy-to-understand view of what small-scale farming entails practically. This read helps you evaluate land economically and agriculturally, guiding you in making an informed purchase. You’ll learn suggestions for land management like draining the land or improving soil quality, suggestions for when to grow seasonal crops, tips for raising goats, chickens, and bees on a small-scale farm, as well as marketing tips for farmers.

Land Buying Tips From the Pros

Land Buying Tips From the Pros

by Pat Porter

Pat’s book will give you specific information about different types of land and what to watch for when thinking about investing. No two types of land are the same, and purchasing a plot comes with a lot of need-to-knows about that specific land type.

The bulk of this book is a compilation of tips from experts on budgeting for rural land based on phone calls Pat had with these eight different experts.

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Growing your own produce from a garden is a huge aspect of homesteading. For me, working in my yard and garden is super cathartic, but it’s also a huge undertaking. Wisdom from expert authors about the best times to plant each crop, tilling and fertilizing methods, tips for crop rotation, and much more will be extremely helpful when creating your first garden.

Organic Gardening For Beginners

Organic Gardening For Beginners

by Lisa Lombardo

Organic Gardening For Beginners opens with an overview of the most popular types of organic gardening, as well as the benefits and setbacks to each. This section is helpful for beginner gardeners to decide which method works in their space.

Lisa also provides explanations to several natural growth methods like controlling pests without chemicals, and a crop-by-crop inventory that tells beginners what they need to know about each plant and vegetable to start growing.

Growing Vegetables The First Time Gardeners Guide

Growing Vegetables:

The First Time Gardeners Guide

by Jessica Sowards

Jessica’s YouTube Channel, Roots and Refuge Farm, is filled with wisdom for the first-time gardener, and so is her book. I would recommend this quick read to anyone who is looking for the most basic information when it comes to growing your own food in a garden. Conversational in style, Jessica delves into common questions like where to put your garden, how to prep your soil, and how to keep pests and critters out of your home garden.

The Flower Gardeners Bible

The Flower Gardener’s Bible

by The Flower Gardener’s Bible

The ultimate flower gardener’s handbook, Lewis walks readers through everything from what to think about when choosing your growing site to increasing the lifespan of your flowers. The books includes many helpful tips on how to improve soil, fight off pests, make informed decisions about seasonal planting, and specific information about each type of flower.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

by Derek Fell

Don’t let space limit you from becoming a homesteader. Derek’s book on vertical gardening is made for those who want to start a garden but don’t have a ton of space. The growing up and not out method is not dependent on having land to plant on, anyone can do it! With over 100 colorful pictures and diagrams to help with the process, Vertical Gardening showcases ways to grow perennials, shrubs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits no matter where you live.

A Seasonal Gardeners Handbook

A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook

by Donna L. Long

The biggest key to knowing when to plant each crop without wasting seeds is to pay attention to seasonal crop patterns. Take it from Donna, knowing when to plant what is an intricate process. Her guide will have you creating your own seasonal gardening calendar and planting by the natural signs of the Earth in no time.

She teaches you everything you could ever want to know about seasonal gardening, including when and when not to prune, creating a simple compost pile, hardening off, tips for plant’s chilling hours, planting by the phases of the Moon, and when to plant each type of annual.

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving, canning, cooking for yourself, managing your food storage – these are all key aspects of the homesteader’s life. These books will take you through what you need to know to bake, save, and store all your own food stuffs.

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

by Angie Schneider

Angie’s ultimate guide gives readers access to charts, colorful pictures, and step-by-step instructions for all kinds of preservation methods like canning & pickling, fermenting, freezing, and dehydrating food. It’s a very helpful book for beginners because the instructions are highly detailed.

Her book also includes many of Angie’s family recipes to try on your homestead, like canned dilly asparagus, fermented corn salsa, dried scalloped potatoes, and dried pumpkin pie.

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

by Ball Test Kitchen

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving is a classic for homesteading and food preservation. It shows up frequently on best of lists when it comes to food prep. Why? It includes over 350 recipes for the beginner to the experienced homesteader, ranging from jams, fruits, butter, jellies, jerkies, pickles, and salsas.

The instructional section of the guide covers water bath and pressure canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, dehydrating, and smoking with detailed instructions and step-by-step photos to make the process simple and efficient.

The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

by Diane Devereaux

Pressure canning is one of the most popular methods for preserving cooked meals. Diane’s The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning is a step by step resource to teach you the art of pressure canning, so you can preserve your favorite low acid foods for you and your family.

Covering everything from soups and stews, jar meals, broths and beans, and game and other meats, this guide will introduce you to everything you need to know about canning through colorful pictures and diagrams.

A Year Without the Grocery Store

A Year Without the Grocery Store

by Karen Morris

This book is geared towards food preservation to prepare for times when grocery stores may not be accessible. Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency, and these tips from Karen will teach you what you need to know to have enough food for you and your family at the ready, no matter what.

Complete with tips for economically storing food your family wants to eat, simple recipes for baking basic comfort foods from scratch, how to safely store and use water, and common mistakes homesteaders make when storing food with ways to do better.

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Becoming self-sufficient with your energy sources is freeing because it cuts out the middle man. Plus, using alternative energy is great for the environment. Many homesteaders go off grid entirely, so let’s take a look at some books that can educate you on how to make off grid living a reality for you.

Off Grid Living 2022-2023

Off Grid Living:

Back to Basics Guide To Become Self Sufficient

by Small Footprint Press

This updated, 30-day guide to go from energy dependance to an entirely off grid life is extremely worthwhile for the new off gridder who wants to adopt the lifestyle as quickly as possible. This guide includes information on living off the grid without giving up any of your luxuries, how to use solar, wind, and geothermal sources, how to install different types of water systems in your home, the best US states for living off grid, and more.

Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

by Nick Seghers

The most popular method of alternative energy on the homestead is solar power. Many people have asked me about putting solar panels on my own tiny house because I’m one of the few out there that is totally off the grid. Let me be the first to say the process isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn!

Nick is an electrical engineer who specializes in solar power design, so his tips are definitely backed by experiences. This manual delves into things like a comprehensive tool list for installing your own panels, tilting, cleaning, optimizing solar input, types of photovoltaics, and much more.

Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

by Paul Gipe

Not as popular as the solar power method but still accessible for the average homesteader, wind turbines are another way to access alternative energy off the grid. Paul’s Wind Energy for the Rest of Us moves through many different methods for harnessing wind energy on your own homestead, including small and large turbines, water-pumping windmills, and multimegawatt wind turbines.

The Complete Guide to Water Storage

The Complete Guide to Water Storage

by Julie Fryer

Learning to store water is a vital for the life of a homesteader. But properly storing your water so its genuinely useable is a learned process, and this read is a great guide for getting started. Using tanks, ponds, and other means of water storage to maintain a safe and viable source of drinking water has become popularized in prepper and homesteader circles. Other water-saving techniques such as rainwater harvesting and gray water collection are also valuable and are explained throughout this guide.

Wood Stoves How to Make and Use Them

Wood Stoves:

How to Make and Use Them

by Ole Wik

Ever considered cooking with a wood stove? This quick read goes over everything you need to know about using and tending to a wood stove, including information about types of wood and stovepipes, how to actually use the wood stove once its going, how to cook with a wood stove, and general safety tips to consider when using an open flame in your own home.

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Homesteading For A Living: Books On The Business Side

Homesteading For A Living

Homesteading goes beyond self-sufficiency – it can also be a business, that, when maintained well, can bring you abundant rewards and financial freedom. Agricultural financing isn’t easy, but with a little guidance you can create the space to sell your tomato harvest, goat cheese, or homemade bar soap and make a substantial profit.

How to Make Money Homesteading

How to Make Money Homesteading

by Tim Young

This simple guide examines an array of skills that are crucial for turning your homestead into a business. Follow along with Tim and learn how to insulate yourself from financial collapse by monitoring which risks you take, manage your finances as you sell your crop, plan for retirement on the farm, and generate livable income from your own homestead. This book features interviews with 18 homesteaders and farmers who share intimate stories of their own journeys toward a fulfilling and financially freeing life on their homestead.

Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business

Starting Your Own Small Farm Business

by Sarah Beth Aubrey

Another great source for those who want to start homesteading but don’t have a ton of space to work with. Sarah Beth’s Starting And Running Your Own Small Farm Business is chalk full of savvy skills to help you get started, like planning your budget, web design to self-promote, and food service wholesalers.

The Organic Farmers Business Handbook

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook

by Richard Wiswall

After working for twenty-seven years at Cate Farm in Vermont, Richard knows the ins and outs of running a farm like a business. In his book, Richard shares advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient, manage your employees, create a budget, and turn a livable profit on your homestead.

The Future Is Rural

The Future Is Rural

by Jason Bradford

You might want to give yourself a minute to take this one in. Written by Jason the biologist and farmer, this book gives a very meta-assessment of what we know about our modern world and why that analysis can benefit the rural community.

Jason explains why, sociologically as well as economically, the decline of rural areas and dependence on fossil fuels will reverse entirely in the coming decade. This will greatly elevate the importance of self-reliance. If you’re looking for a high brow evaluation of why turning your homestead into a business and independently oiled machine is worth it, this is the book for you.

Farm Record Keeping Book

Farm Record Keeping Book

by Exocet Journals

Staying organized is crucial for running a successful farming business. Writing everything down in an all-inclusive journal can help with that. This record keeping journal is one smart way to log your daily farm routine, livestock care, seasonal crop rotations, repair operations, budget, and more – all kept in one place.

Books On Homesteading Skills, Tools and Supplies

Books On Homesteading Skills Tools and Supplies

Repairs, updates, and maintenance work is required for maintaining a successful homestead. Knowing which tools get the job done and understanding how to perform basic repairs can help you keep your farm in tip top shape and keep you from having to call for backup.

The Tool Book

The Tool Book:

A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tool

by Phil Davey

Phil’s tool book is basically an encyclopedia for common household tools. Leaf through this guide to find pictures of common tools from every imaginable angle, detailed patent drawings, zoomed in diagrams, and step-by-step illustrations of each tool being used with expert advice on how to use each tool best. The book covers different types of hammers, spades, chisels, and more.

Woodworking The Complete Step-by-Step Manual

Woodworking: The Complete Manual

by DK

This step-by-step carpenter’s manual includes guidance for a wide range of skillsets. New carpenters will learn the ins and outs of basic design techniques, how to use essential tools, and basic carpentry techniques like woodturning, furniture restoration, and wood joints.

More experienced carpenters can use their skills and follow the steps in the 28 different DIY woodworking projects the book provides. There’s something here for everybody wanting to learn more about woodworking.

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

by Max Alth

Another essential skill to get good at is plumbing, especially if you aren’t wanting to hire out on your homestead. This DIY guide includes over 500 photos, diagrams, and drawings to teach how to fix leaky faucets, balky toilets, clogged drains and traps, and even how to install hot-water and steam-heating system on your own.

Farm and Workshop Welding

Farm and Workshop Welding

by John Seymour

With over 400 step by step photos and tons of tips and suggestions for beginner to experienced welders, this comprehensive welding guide has it all. Learning to cut and shape metal will help you keep your homestead up to par and give you the freedom to create endless projects on your own.

Flip through Andrew’s comprehensive guide for detailed descriptions of specific types of welds like arc, MIG, gas, TIG, and plasma cutting. It also includes advice that extends into the wider workshop with advice on drill use, cutting threads, and blacksmithing.

Tools A Tool-by-Tool Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials


Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials

by Steve Dodds

Knowing which tools to use and how to use them is the first step in keeping up with repairs around your homestead. This quick read chronicles 150 power and hand tools with explanations on how to use them.

Steve informs readers in three clear cut sections. The first covers where you can go to find quality tools and what specifically to look for to ensure years of dependable use. The second section explains how to use eight basic tool kits, and the third section is a tool-by-tool inventory of virtually every power and hand tool you could need.

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

A homestead isn’t complete without livestock. If the goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, producing your own food with as few outside sources as possible, raising animals is the best way to make that happen. This booklist will provide you with all the know-hows you need to reduce your dependance on big agriculture and learn to produce your own dairy and poultry.

Raising Chickens and Goats

Raising Chickens and Goats

by Jason Howard

Chickens and goats are the most popular choices for raising animals on a homestead, especially if you’re getting into agriculture for the first time. Jason goes over how to know if your chickens and goats are healthy when you purchase them, how to keep them from getting sick, and ways to protect your livestock from predators.

For chickens, he talks about how to build a chicken coop, tips to raise robust chickens, and how to choose the best chicken breed on a budget, and more. For goats, he goes over the best places to buy a healthy goat, common mistakes homesteaders make when raising goats, tips to keep your goats from getting diseases, and more.

The Homesteaders Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

by Amy Fewell

Pretty much anything you’d want to know about raising chickens is likely found in the little guide. Amy provides detailed explanations of everything from understanding why chickens do what they do, creating your very own poultry or egg business, preventing and treating ailments with herbal remedies, setting up your property, coop, and brooder, and hatching new chicks.

Keeping A Family Cow

Keeping A Family Cow

by Joann S. Grohman

Keeping A Family Cow was originally published in the early 1970s as The Cow Economy, and has been reprinted many times with updates and edits. If you’re wondering if you should get a cow but aren’t sure where to begin, this is the book for you. Joann goes over cow knowledge essentials, like the health benefits of untreated milk, how to easily milk your cow, details on calving and breeding, and the ins and outs of making butter, yogurt, and cheese.

Raising Pigs

Raising Pigs:

The Ultimate Guide to Pig Raising on Your Homestead

by Dion Rosser

Learn the ins and outs of raising pigs with detailed instructions in Raising Pigs: The Ultimate Guide To Pig Raising. Dion’s ultimate guide covers how to choose the type of pig that will best suit your needs, how to build proper housing and fencing for your pigs, how to properly care for your swine, how to feed your pigs well, and tips for pig reproduction and breeding.

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Beekeeping is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance. There are extensive benefits that come with adding beekeeping into your self-reliance skills on your family’s homestead.

The importance of bees often gets overlooked, but they are actually one of the most necessary creatures to sustaining humankind. Their role as pollinators is essential to our food chain and the longevity of society.

By beekeeping, you can do your part to help keep bees from going extinct. And the honey is a major plus! Check out this booklist to kickstart your journey as a beekeeper.

Beekeeping For Beginners

Beekeeping For Beginner’s

by Amber Bradshaw

If you’re new to beekeeping completely, I’d definitely recommend this read. Follow along with Amy, a homesteader and experienced beekeeper, to learn the basic fundamentals of modern beekeeping. This book will walk you through picking the right hive, bringing your bees home for the first time, surviving winters with your bees, the basics of collecting honey, and more.

Beekeepers Problem Solver

Beekeeper’s Problem Solver:

100 Common Problems Explored and Explained

by James E. Tew

It’s easy for things to go wrong when learning the art of keeping bees. This book explores 100 common problems for all beekeepers, from the beginner to experienced level. Then, it provides several methods to solve those problems directly. Each issue is addressed in detail with photographs and diagrams and tangible solutions from highly experienced beekeepers.

Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

by Dewey M. Caron with Lawrence John Connor

This extensive and heavily researched beekeeper’s guide is for those curious about the science and history behind the art of beekeeping. This deep dive into beekeeping concentrates on the why, how, and when of beekeeping both today and in the past. Dewey and Lawrence explain bee basics in a manner meaningful to people who lack an intensive background in biology, covering colony management, basic bee biology, and more.

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

The practice of permaculture is all about managing your land and life in a way that is harmonious with the natural world. Getting started with permaculture begins with your thoughts then moves into your habits and lifestyle.

It means designing your land in a way that does not harm the earth, using your resources with environmental caution, decreasing your waste and your consumption, and creating an ecologically sound life on your homestead.

Permaculture A Beginners Guide

Permaculture: A Beginners Guide

by Graham Burnett

This is a valuable read if you’re entirely new to the lifestyle and mindset of permaculture. It’s a generalized beginner’s guide, so I don’t go this route if you aren’t actually a beginner – you might be frustrated by the level of simplicity! However, if you’re looking to learn the very basics of what permaculture is and how you can take baby steps to adopt the lifestyle, this is your book.

Earth User's Guide to Permaculture

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture

by Rosemary Morrow

This is a slightly more detailed and extensive guide to permaculture than the one above. Rosemary talks a lot about the principles behind living a life built around permaculture: to care for people and the earth wherever possible.

Practically, she also provides detailed tips and instructions for the following practices: seed-saving, integrated pest management, domestic and rural water usage, dealing with weeds and wildlife in an ecologically friendly manner, and designing land to withstand natural disasters.

Permaculture Design a Step by Step Guide

Permaculture Design

by Aranya

This book is specifically geared toward land design and management under the umbrella of permaculture. Aranya explains the design process in extensive detail from beginning to end, covering designing frameworks, site surveying and mapmaking, placement and integration, and working with clients. There is an abundant use of flowcharts and diagrams throughout to help you learn the practice.

Prepping And Survival Skills

Prepping And Survival Skills

A prepper is an individual who focuses on training themselves in both urban and bushcraft survival skills to be prepared for all situations. Learning prepping and survival skills is a great way to prepare for all circumstances and make sure you have everything you need on your own homestead, should you be disconnected from civilization. These books go over basic and advanced survival skills for preppers and homesteaders alike.

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

by Jim Cobb

This step-by-step survivalist guide is full of advice, techniques, strategies, and skills to learn from the perspective of a lifelong prepping expert. Jim gives insight on preparing for the worst with skills like water collection for drinking and hygiene, storing water, growing food, hunting game, foraging in the woods, first aid and home remedies, and tactics for fortifying and defending your home.

SAS Survival Handbook

SAS Survival Handbook:

How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate

by John Lofty Wiseman

John’s handbook specifically addresses ways to survive unforeseen situations as they arise. John provides strategies and tactics for surviving in any type of situation, from accidents and escape procedures to adapting to various climates like polar, tropical, or desert, to identifying edible plants, to creating fire. The is an all-inclusive how to for surviving anything, complete with detailed descriptions, illustrations, instructions, and diagrams.

Natural Medicine And Remedies

Natural Medicine And Remedies

For some, being entirely self-sufficient without using outside sources includes medicine. Many homesteaders engage with herbal remedies like tinctures, teas, syrups, and salves to calm anxiety, heal wounds, or help with ailments like headaches or the common cold. These easy reads will give you some basic advice for beginning the world of herbal medicine.

The Homesteaders Herbal Companion

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion

by Amy Fewell

This book is the go-to guide for those wishing to start their journey with home remedies. Amy covers everything from incorporating herbs and essential oils around your home, the basics of herbalism, and how to properly use each type of herb around your homestead. Whether you are new to homesteading and herbal medicine or you know the basics already, there is much to gain from this comprehensive guide.

Medicinal Herbs A Beginners Guide

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

by Rosemary Gladstar

In this beginner’s guide, Rosemary goes over 33 common healing plants and their uses. She also includes advice on growing, harvesting, and preparing each plant along with tips for using herbs in healing tinctures, oils, and creams. This is a valuable read if you’re looking for an in-depth inventory of useful medicinal herbs with pictures and tips for usage.

Be Your Own Doctor

Be Your Own Doctor

by Rachel Weaver

This book is specifically geared toward creating safe, high quality, in-home medical care. Rachel divides her book into sections: essential household remedies with which includes remedies for common issues, first aid, and immunity boosters, then health hormones and pregnancy, and, lastly, planning ahead and getting supplies. I would recommend this one to anyone thinking about trying herbal medicine in their homestead.

minimalism book reviews
tiny house book reviews

The Definitive Guide To Converting Your Cargo Trailer

The Definitive Guide To Converting Your Cargo Trailer

Cargo Trailer Conversion


Have you ever considered camping in a cargo trailer? Converting a cargo trailer from scratch allows you to design your camper to specifically fit your needs.

Having a blank canvas with so much room for creativity might seem a little scary, but if planned out well, it can really enhance your camping experience. A cargo camper is more affordable and customizable than traditional campers and RVs, and it is definitely sturdier than a tent.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

When I built my cargo camper as a temporary place to live while finishing up my tiny home, I loved being able to drop the ramp door off the back, pull out my mattress, and lay in bed looking up at the stars.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Type Of Trailer Should I Convert Into A Camper?

what type of trailer should i convert into a camper

I considered a lot of factors before choosing a 7’x14’ V-nose trailer to convert. There are many styles and sizes available, which can make the shopping process a little overwhelming at first. Let’s narrow down some of those options.

V-Nose Trailer Camper

V-Nose Trailer Camper

v-nose trailerA V-nose trailer is an enclosed trailer that features a V shape on the front rather than a flat shape. There are a couple of benefits to having this V-shaped front.

First off, it adds a few extra inches to the front, which could be a great spot for additional shelving and storage. I’ve even seen people use this extra space for their toilet and shower because it’s an easy place to hang a curtain for privacy. Another plus is that these trailers will get you better MPG, as the V shape is more aerodynamic and easier to pull.

I find the biggest downside to V-nose trailers is that they create a more complicated layout, since the shape is a bit awkward. But if you’re a handy person and this isn’t your first build, you may enjoy the extra challenge the V shape provides.

Flat Nose Trailer Camper

Flat Nose Trailer Camper

flat nose trailerA flat nose trailer is a traditional box shaped trailer. When I was shopping around for trailers, I found these to be the most popular and affordable option. The box shape gives you more space by the hitch, where I’ve seen people mount storage boxes in addition to their propane tanks. Plus, their modular shape makes for a much simpler interior design.

One important thing to note about flat nose trailers is wind resistance. If you’re worried about your cargo camper slowing you down, consider adding a wind deflector to the roof. For a small price, you can achieve an aerodynamic effect similar to that of the V-neck trailer.

Toy Hauler Camper

Toy Hauler Camper

toy hualer camperToy Haulers are considered RVs with fold down ramps and dedicated “garage” areas for large items like bikes, ATVs, or even watercraft. The built-in garage space is ideal for many campers and makes a great option for a camper conversion.

The most common toy hauler you’ll find is a bumper pull, and it has about the same weight capacity as a cargo trailer of the same size. These trailers will have a smaller garage, and if you plan on keeping that space intact for your toys, keep in mind that you usually have to unload the garage area to use the living space.

If you’re looking to keep the garage area as a dedicated space for large toys and you don’t want those toys spilling into your living area, you should consider a fifth wheel toy hauler. This type separates the bult-in garage area from the living area, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for the best of both worlds.

Best Size Cargo Trailer To Convert

Best Size Cargo Trailer To Convert

The first thing I did before shopping for a trailer was check my vehicles towing capacity. When I converted my trailer, I planned to use it as a temporary place to live by myself.

I knew I wouldn’t be doing much traveling, but that I needed to account for all of my belongings while my tiny home was under construction. With that in mind, I chose a 7’x14’ trailer, which was the perfect size for me.

cargo trailer 5x8
I would recommend a 5’x8’ trailer if you’re a solo camper who wants to get around easily. This is a great option if you don’t have a large truck but do have a mid-sized SUV or smaller truck that can handle a smaller load.

An empty 5’x8’ cargo trailer weighs around 800 lbs. and can hold about 2,200 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 6x10
I like this size because it’s a great option for two people, or a solo camper traveling with a dog. With the right style bed, you could easily sleep two people in this trailer. I’ve also seen a lot of people put a dog bed under their elevated bed.

An empty 6’x10’ trailer weighs around 1,000 lbs. and can hold about 1,800 lbs. in additional weight.

cargo trailer 6x12
For couples who camp together, this option is a great choice because it allows space for a larger bed and a shower. Plus, it can still be towed by a smaller truck.

An empty 6’x12’ trailer weighs about 1,200 lbs. and can hold about 1,800 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x12
This size trailer is great for couples with a dog or couples who take longer trips, as there’s a bit more room for storing your supplies. Be sure to take into account the weight of this camper when it’s fully loaded, as it may need a larger truck to be towed.

An empty 7’x12’ trailer weighs about 1,300 lbs. and can hold about 1,700 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x14
You might want to consider this option if you’re a small family with a large truck. This is a decent size trailer to fit bunk beds or a large seating area for a family.

An empty 7’x14’ trailer weighs about 1,400 lbs. and can hold about 1,600 lbs. of additional weight.

cargo trailer 7x16
This is an ideal option for a larger family who wants to get away from it all. You’ll need a larger truck to tow this because the weight will be higher, but it’s easily doable.

An empty 7’x16’ trailer weighs about 2,200 lbs. and can hold about 4,700 lbs. of additional weight.

towing a tiny house

How To Design An Enclosed Trailer Camper For You

How To Design An Enclosed Trailer Camper That Is Right For You

One of the first things I learned when building my camper and my tiny house is that planning your design ahead is the most important part of the building process. Start by pinpointing what your needs are and make note of what is most important on that list. Then you can start designing a camper and be confident that it will fit all of your needs.

how to design a tiny house

Can You Put A Bathroom In An Enclosed Trailer?

Can You Put A Bathroom In An Enclosed Trailer

I personally like the convenience of a full bathroom no matter where I’m parked, but some campers prefer to stick to campsites with facilities.

I’m often asked about toilets in tiny spaces. For camping purposes, I would recommend a composting bucket toilet or a portable toilet because they’re waterless and stowable. These will save space in both your water tank and your floorplan.

And, for all of the toilet questions you’re probably afraid to Google, I’ve answered them in my What It’s Really Like To Use A Composting Toilet post.

There are a few options for a shower in a trailer, with the easiest option being a shower stall kit. These can be purchased at your local supply store for around $400 with all parts included and are guaranteed to be lightweight.

If you’re a handy person and want to DIY, you can install a handmade shower like the one featured below. I would start with a shower pan and then install my waterproof enclosure next. I love the look of this modern shower with stainless-steel walls and a waterfall showerhead.

stainless steel shower
tiny house toilet options

Cargo Camper Bedroom Options

Cargo Camper Bedroom Options

When it comes to sleeping in a cargo camper trailer, I would recommend a bed that saves you the most space. With such limited square footage, a standard size bed may fill up the entirety of the trailer space. Here are some sleeping options that will save you the most space.

Elevator Bed

I’ve noticed the elevator bed growing in popularity, and for good reason! Similar to the Murphy bed, this option gives you plenty of floor space. But with the elevator feature, you don’t have to move anything out of the way to reveal the bed — you can lower your mattress to a height that allows you to leave most of your belongings where they are.
cargo camper elevator bed

Raised Bed

A raised bed is perfect for campers who need the extra storage space. They provide plenty of space for storing food, clothing, and maybe even a dog bed.
cargo camper raised bed

Murphy Bed

Murphy beds are a very common space-saving bed option. When folded, it provides open floor space and room to move around the trailer.

Also featured in this trailer is a futon. The futon is a great bed choice because, with a simple maneuver, it serves a second purpose. If you plan to spend a lot of time hanging out inside of your cargo camper, you may like having the seating area.

cargo camper murphy bed

Kitchen In A Cargo Camper

Kitchen In A Cargo Camper

I had so much fun designing and planning the kitchens for my tiny house and camper. It’s where I got to be the most creative and really started to customize my space to fit my needs. Even the minor details in your kitchen can really make a big difference in such a small space.

Kitchen Appliances in a Cargo Camper

store away cooktopI cook all of my meals from scratch and I love to grill out, so with this in mind, I focused more on my outdoor grill and reserved extra counter space in my camper kitchen. If you’re looking to save some counter space, a store-away stovetop is a great option.

I also opted for a convection toaster oven because it requires less power and space than a built-in oven. Take a look at my top appliance recommendations for more advice on how to equip a small kitchen space.

Fridges In A Cargo Camper

refrigerator In a cargo camper